Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fort Necessity and Braddock's Defeat

Last week I attended the second annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Section of the American Physical Society in Morgantown, WV, but I saved a little money by staying in a hotel in Uniontown, PA.  It turns out this is close to the site of Fort Necessity, which I would have wanted to visit anyhow, but due to my recent interest in genealogy, it was almost a requirement.

The general location is in the middle of some high, steep hills, so one would expect the fort to make use of the terrain to make it more defensible.  Probably this would not have changed the outcome, but the fact is that Washington sited the fort in a level meadow with trees only a few dozen yards from the walls.  It was tiny and pathetic.  Just look at these "earthworks" -- too small to hide behind, let alone stop a charging enemy.  It's as though Washington thought earthworks are a necessary part of a fort, but he had no idea what function they were meant to play.  No wonder the American Indian allies he was trying to recruit were unimpressed and declined to stay.

The earthworks are presumably original, but the fort is reconstructed on the basis of archeology and, probably, the written accounts of witnesses. 

A "fort" was built by my ancestors either before or after the 1838 Indian raid that killed the elderly Thomas Cupples Richards, together with much of his family.  The historical marker says before:
Fort Place, forerunner of Wewahitchka, located one-quarter mile East was constructed in the early 1830's as a refuge from hostile Indians. It consisted of a hewn log blockhouse equipped with portholes for firearms, and was enclosed within a two acre stockade. No remains of Fort Place are visible today.
I never thought this sounded much like a "fort", but it was larger and apparently better defended than Fort Necessity. 

My genealogical connection to Fort Necessity is debatable.  I am maybe descended from Col. Joshua Fry, who was supposed to command the Virginia expedition but who fell off his horse and died in Cumberland, MD.  It all depends on whether Cherry Ann Nelson, who married Daniel Thomas Richards, was in fact the great-granddaughter of the Joseph Nelson (1750-1837) who married Catherine O'Bannon.  Most genealogies on indicate this, but on what basis I am not sure. Not only does she not appear in Descendants of John Nelson, Sr.- Mary Toby, Stafford County, Virginia 1740-1959 with Related Families, neither do her father (Joseph Nelson, 1806-1840) or mother (Sarah Ann McDavid, 1809-1860).

Close by is the grave of Edward Braddock, who was perhaps too honest, or more likely insufficiently diplomatic, antagonized the local Indians, and paid with his life.  According to his obituary, George Richards (1727-1818) was with Washington at Braddock's Defeat.

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